Trauma can be defined as a sudden, extra-ordinary, and external event that overwhelms an individual's capacity to cope and master feelings aroused by the event." (L.C Terr, 1991)
A traumatic event is unnatural, overwhelming and often beyond one's control.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional disorder that can result from either experiencing, witnessing or being confronted by a traumatic incident/s. Traumatic incidents can be physical or emotional threats such as; serious injury, car accidents, natural catastrophes, divorce, and bereavement. Post-traumatic stress disorder often can occur in traumatic incidences where one may feel intense fear, a sense of helplessness and horror.
Some symptoms that individual may experience after some delay (symptoms usually don't develop directly after the trauma)
- Individuals may have difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated startle response
Acute PTSD: symptoms have lasted at least three months
Chronic PTSD: symptoms have lasted three months or longer
CRITERIA OF PTSD:
The traumatic event is also persistently re-experienced in one or more of the following ways for more than a month;
- "Recurrent or distressing recollections of the event (thoughts or perceptions). Children may display traumatic themes in repetitive play."
- "Recurrent distressing dreams of the traumatic incident. Children may have repetitive frightening dreams, where content may be unrecognizable."
- "Acting or feeling as though the traumatic event may be reoccurring, reliving the event through flashbacks, illusions or hallucinations."
- "Intense psychological distress at any exposure that may symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic incident."
- "Persistent avoidance of aspects associated with the traumatic incident and may result in numbing of general responsiveness." Individuals may experience the following (three or more);
- Individuals may avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma
- Avoid activities, places or people that may arouse recollections of the trauma
- Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
- Feelings of detachment, estrangement from others
- Unable to have loving feelings
- Sense of foreshortened future
Acute stress disorder (ASD) is similar to (PTSD) however it occurs within the first month of the traumatic incident. (ASD) is a very severe reaction that some individuals may have immediately. However if the symptoms last longer than the first month, the individual may be experiencing (PTSD)
CRITERIA FOR ASD:
- A stress that provokes fear, horror or helplessness
- Re-experiencing of the event in some way
- Numbing of responsiveness
- Hyperarousal (or symptoms of severe anxiety)
From a psychological perspective, experts will agree that individuals suffering from (PTSD) or (ASD) should confront the original trauma through trauma debriefing, counselling, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Cognitive behavioural therapy or Hypnosis. This will help the individual to find effective coping strategies to deal with the trauma more efficiently. Through debriefing and counselling, the individual can then confront the trauma therapeutically instead of traumatically.
Sometimes individuals may suppress painful and frightening memories of the event, counselling helps the individual relive the event in a safe therapeutic setting where debriefing and containment can be administered.